Having two or more cardiometabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, may double dementia risk. The corresponding study was published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
While cardiometabolic diseases taken individually are known to increase dementia risk, their simultaneous impact has been relatively less studied. In the present study, researchers thus sought to examine the effects of having more than one such condition at a time on cognitive function.
To do so, they analyzed data from the Swedish National Study on Aging and Care, including 2,577 initially dementia-free participants aged 60 or older, and followed them for 12 years. Over the period, they analyzed patient health records for changes in cognitive function and evidence of dementia, alongside forms of cardiometabolic disease.
In the end, they found that having more than one cardiometabolic disease doubled the risk for cognitive impairment and dementia and accelerated their development by two years. They further found the more metabolic diseases one had, the more likely they were to develop dementia.
However, they noted that those with just one cardiometabolic disease did not have a significantly higher risk of dementia.
“This is good news. The study shows that the risk only increases once someone has at least two of the diseases, so it’s possible that dementia can be averted by preventing the development of a second disease,” said Abigail Dove, a doctoral student at the Aging Research Centre, part of the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, and one of the study’s authors.
“We should therefore focus on cardiometabolic disease prevention already in middle age, since the risk of cognitive failure and dementia appears higher among those who develop a cardiometabolic disease earlier in life,” she added.
The researchers now hope to explore the mechanisms behind this link by investigating genetic factors and how cardiometabolic diseases exert changes in the brain.